My First Cycling Race: Bogus Basin Hill Climb

Those of you who know me know that I have a love hate relationship with my bike. Love the cross training benefits. Lots of anxiety surrounding the whole balancing on two skinny wheels while traveling at high speeds with my feet clipped in part. Coordination has not historically been my strong suit. I like triathlon because it motivates me to cross train and forces me to become a more well rounded athlete, and since most of a triathlon is spent on the bike, I must confront my cycling anxiety.

My friend Barb has helped me confront my fears head on this summer. Through practice, repetition, and finding a pedal system that works better for me (Thank you, Barb!) I was able to gain a bit more confidence on the bike. One of the training rides I like to do is up Bogus Basin Road, a 16.5 mile winding road that leads to our local ski hill. The total ride has about 4000 feet of elevation gain. At the end of August there is a race to the top called the Bogus Basin Hill Climb. I had never ridden my bike all the way to the top (the furthest I had gone in training was to mile marker 13) nor had I ever done a cycling race, but this year my husband and I decided to do it. My coach Gretchen also signed up.

There were three options on signup: the dirt race (you can get to the top via approximately 20 miles of mountain biking trails as well), the non-competitive road race (which is not timed), and the competitive road race (which is timed). I looked at the times from last years’ race and approximated my time based on my training rides. Based on my projected time, I would finish squarely in the bottom 25%. Nevertheless, if I was going to do a cycling race, I wanted a number and proof on the interwebs that I had done a cycling race! Competitive race it is!

On the morning of the race, my husband and I rode our bikes to the start. The weather was nice: not too hot or cold and no wind. We assessed the group and lined up behind the group of junior high and high school kids. After about 4 or 5 miles of hard climbing, my legs started to feel tired. While I had done long or hard rides before, I had never done a cycling specific workout outside and I was wondering if signing up for a cycling race had been a bad idea. During long or hard rides I would stop and get a drink or a snack. I was not planning to do that during this race. I had a Camelbak on my back and was just planning to drink from that and keep going. I wondered if I was last or close to last, but noticed a few riders behind me. I pushed my doubts aside and kept pedaling.

Once I got out of my head and to the second half, I felt much better. I was enjoying the ride, occasionally passing a person or two, and appreciating the tree coverage that the higher elevation brought. I even noticed that when I would sip from my Camelbak I would continue to pedal with one hand off of my bars. I must be getting more comfortable on the bike! Before I knew it I was just a couple of miles from the top. I finished the ride in 1 hours and 35 minutes, well under my projected finish time of 2 hours.

My husband, coach and I enjoyed the post race beer, tacos and music and then headed back down the mountain. For me, riding back down was just as hard (if not harder!) than riding up. By that point in the day the wind had picked up a bit making the downhill a bit scary for me. Nevertheless, I made it home in one piece very proud of my almost 40 mile round trip up and down the mountain!




Date Night (Spudman Race Report)

Most couples go out to dinner and a move on date night. My husband and I do that occasionally too. Lately, however, we’ve been hiring babysitters so that we can go on bike rides and open water swims together in order to train for our first Olympic Distance Triathlon. We were training for Onionman in Walla Walla, but due to my father-in-law’s illness (he’s fine now) we had to cancel at the last minute and did Spudman in Burley instead.

This was a big race, consisting of about 2,000 triathletes. We set up our transitions the night before, which helped alleviate some of the anxiety on race morning. Nevertheless, we arrived at the start only a few minutes prior to my husband’s start time. My wave started 30 minutes later so I had some additional time to visit the port-a-potty and survey the swim. The 1.5k swim was in the snake river and was current aided. I got in the water a few minutes before my start time and noticed that I had to actively swim backwards in order to keep from drifting ahead of the start buoy. Finally, the gun for my wave went off and I was able to stop wasting energy on staying behind the start line.

The swim was fast, fun, and in a straight line down the river. I couldn’t believe when I saw T1 on the horizon. I got out, searched for my bike, and started fumbling with my wetsuit. I am always amazed by the elite athletes that can breeze through the transitions like Houdini. I feel like a teenage boy trying to take a bra off. After I finally got my wetsuit off of my ankles I had to sit down to don my socks for fear of falling over. I finally got myself all situated and headed out on my bike. I am not yet coordinated enough to drink from water bottles so I decided to try a Camelbak. However, I accidentally brought by daughter’s bladder. It seemed to fit in my Camelbak okay though.

The 25k bike is fast and flat with only a few turns. I pass people on fat tires like they aren’t moving and people on fancy tri bikes pass me like I am not moving. I notice several people who appear to be riding in groups. I am fairly new to the sport of triathlon but I thought that drafting was strictly prohibited and even penalized. It kind of annoyed me but I tried to focus on my own ride and doing the best I could. I tried to take a sip of water. Nothing would come out. I tried again. Still nothing. After several attempts I decided there must be a kink in the hose and gave up. I tried not to panic that I would not have any hydration on the bike and told myself it would be good practice for something not going as planned on race day. And since it was my daughter’s bladder in my pack I imagined it was her hand on my back pushing me along. I found out after the race that her valve was just switched to the off position. Won’t make that mistake again!

I came into T2 ready for the run, but with such a large transition area I had a bit of trouble locating my stuff. I definitely see why people use helium balloons. I found my setup after a minute and headed out for the run. There was a spectator at the start offering smoked ribs to runners. Doesn’t that sound exactly like what you would want at that point in a race? He didn’t have any takers, but he got a good laugh out of me.

The 10k run starts with a steep hill. I walked up it and used the time to eat and drink, since I wasn’t able to on the bike. Then I settled in to my pace for the remainder of the run. It was hot, but several spectators were kind enough to set up sprinklers along the course. I thought I might catch my husband on the run, but he was waiting for me at the finish. It was a fun race and a successful first Olympic distance triathlon for both of us. I will definitely be back for more!


Harnessing Fear

There have been periods over the past several years where I have dabbled in cycling. Whether it be a desire to try triathlon, increase my cross-training repertoire, or to maintain fitness during periods of injury, when I mount a bicycle I typically find myself confronting fear. Fear of clipping in and out, fear of descending, fear of riding in traffic…of course those are all just variations of one primary fear: Crashing and getting hurt (or God forbid worse).

When I can confront a fear and come through on the other side of it, I gain confidence. But too much fear can be crippling and will cause me to avoid the activity. The trick is to find the right balance, or to use the fear to my advantage.

Yesterday I was riding up a hill (Bogus Basin Road for those of you that live in Boise) and came upon a cattle guard. Having never ridden my road bike over a cattle guard before I was terrified when I saw it. My preference would have been to unclip and walk over or around it, yet I was cycling uphill and cannot unclip quickly while cycling uphill. I feel like I need a lot of time to unclip and need to be pedaling on a flat surface to do so. I looked ahead and saw another cyclist a couple hundred feet ahead of me. He had obviously gone over the cattle guard and was still upright, so I presumed I could go too. I looked ahead, pedaled forward, and hoped for the best. What choice did I have? I hit the guard, rumbled furiously, and as soon as it started it stopped and I was on the other side! Still upright! But with one minor problem. Since this was an out and back ride up and down a large hill, I would still have to ride back down over the cattle guard.


I found a safe place to turn around and once I was heading downhill immediately started worrying about the cattle guard. Descending is not my favorite to begin with and adding the cattle guard to the descent was not helping at all. As I approached it on the downhill, I looked ahead of it, thought “focus on where you want to go” and rode right over it. The downhill seemed to make less of a rumble than the uphill, probably because I hit it going faster, but my body, having been flooded with surges of adrenaline from my fear, continued to shake even after the cattle guard was miles behind me. While it was confidence inducing to know that I can, in fact, ride over a cattle guard without harming myself, I cannot say that I was jumping out of bed to go do it again this morning.

I did, however, go on another (different) road bike ride this morning with my husband and that one also forced me to closely examine how I can perhaps harness my fear to motivate me and build confidence instead of destroy it. Today’s ride was full of chip seal. For those of you who do not live in the area, chip sealing is an alternative, cheaper way to maintain roads that involves dumping a bunch of loose gravel everywhere. So imagine you are on your favorite road route and all of a sudden discover that a) the bike lanes are gone, b) there’s about two inches of loose gravel for miles and miles, and c) when cars drive by they often kick up said loose gravel in your face. On one of the descents through the gravel I was swerving all over the place, spitting gravel everywhere, and when we got to the bottom of the hill I tossed my bike aside and told my husband, “I quit.” I actually said the words, “I quit.” I told him that he could ride home and get me (which would have taken over an hour) or we could ask someone at a nearby house if they would watch our bikes while we took an uber home and then drove back. He looked at me, laughed, agreed the ride was no fun, but told me to put my big girl panties on, that I could do it and to keep pedaling. And I’m so glad he did. I would have felt bad if I had quit in the middle of the ride. Also, the beer I drank when I got home would not have tasted nearly as good.

And I would not have had the rest of the ride to consider how to properly harness fear to create confidence. I still do not have that part figured out and am open to suggestions. I have owned a road bike for eight years and I still feel fearful when I ride it. But I can do things now that I could not do eight years ago. I like to believe that the more I ride the more confident I will get. Perhaps it will not come quickly. Perhaps I will always be somewhat fearful. But I keep showing up. I keep riding.

I asked myself this morning why. Why do I keep doing something that scares me so much? Why time and time again do I get on the bike only to flood my body with adrenaline, have near misses with cars or almost topple over due to my own user error? Because if I don’t try, I’ll never know what I am capable of. To show my kids what confronting fear looks like. Because there is no chance of running into a deer in a gym class and the views aren’t quite as good. Because I like doing triathlons. Because the beer at the end tastes phenomenal. And because nothing feels quite as good as doing something that you didn’t think you could do yesterday.



If My Life Were A Bike Ride

This past weekend my husband and I went on a 40 mile mountain bike ride to celebrate his 40th birthday. Somewhere along the way we realized that the ride was a metaphor for our lives so far. The first few miles were a breeze, in fact I can barely remember them. I was full of energy, although a bit wobbly on my bike. Everything was fresh and brand new. I spent a lot of time enjoying the view and some time getting off of my bike to walk the more treacherous parts of the trail. (See Uncoordinated Runner Attempts Mountain Biking.) In fact, in an attempt to increase my bonding with my mountain bike and decrease my fear and anxiety associated with mountain biking, at some point in the first ten miles or so, I bestowed a name upon my lovely mountain bike. Her name is Rita. I am not sure why, it just came to me. She seems feminine and lovely and she is also white and green like the colors of salt and lime that that go with a margaRITA, so maybe that’s why. I don’t know. What I DO know, however, is that Rita is timid on single track trails and steep downhills. She’s a bit claustrophobic, risk averse, and has a fear of heights. But we are getting along well so far.

Crossing Trestles Like a Champ

Rita, Crossing Trestles Like a Champ

Miles 10 through 20 were also a breeze. Downhill through the mountains following the river with a beautiful view. Much like in my own teens, I did not realize how good I had it! At mile 20, we stopped to turn around. And that’s where the real fun began. The trail we were on had been downhill to our turnaround point, but the downhill was gentle and the trail was loose gravel so we were still having to pedal to go downhill and did not realize how much we had been going downhill. Oops!

When we turned around at mile 20, we quickly realized that we were going to have our work cut out for us. Much like a college graduate at age 22, we realized around mile 22 that we were going to ration out our water (much like budgeting money), and work smartly and efficiently to ensure that we would meet our goal. The 20s were hard but we still had energy to plow through them.

Trucking along!

Trucking along!

The 30s is when the real fun began! And in our real lives, our 30s is when we had our 3 children. So fittingly, miles 30-40 were grueling and exhausting. We took several breaks to laugh at ourselves (Whose idea what this?!) and encourage each other. We knew we would reach our goal, but knew it would take work. And much like parenting, we did it together and with a sense of humor (well, mostly). When we got back to the car (kind of like when we get to the couch after a day of parenting) we were exhausted, but felt accomplished. And very thirsty for beer. We also realized that this is just the beginning of the journey and look forward to seeing what the next 40 years (or miles!) will bring!

Trusting the Process Part II: Uncoordinated Runner Attempts Mountain Biking

I am not coordinated.  I fall while running, while walking, while going up stairs, you name the activity and I’ll find a way to injure myself.  My daughter’s name means “one who walks with a strong proud gait.”  It is my hope that by bestowing such a name on her she will be more graceful than her poor mom.  But I digress…

My husband wants to do a long bike ride for his upcoming 40th birthday and was sweet enough to buy me a nice mountain bike so that I could join him.  The first time I took it out I crashed within 15 minutes.  Today I rode with my husband in lieu of doing my long run.  We were on a beautiful trail in the mountains in McCall, Idaho.  I don’t think this trail would be considered difficult or technical by any standards.  Nice and wide with some ruts, not too steep.  About three miles in I somehow popped my chain off of the gears and got it stuck.  While my husband was patiently trying to fix my bike for me, I was repeating to myself, “This moment is exactly as it should be. This moment is exactly as it should be.”  But although my head was saying that and my eyes were looking around and trying to appreciate the beautiful scenery and the peace and quiet of being along in the mountains with my husband, my heart was screaming the following:

“This moment is NOT as it should be!  I should be on a long run!  Or with my running team at the Famous Potato Races trying to get a PR! What is wrong with me? Why am I always injured? I don’t like mountain biking.  I should sell this bike.”  I almost burst into tears.

But I got back on my bike. Repeating, “This moment is exactly how it should be.”  My encouraging husband kept telling me what a great job I was doing even though he had to slow his pace and frequently wait for me while I walked my bike around ruts that I was too timid to ride around.  I felt like my heart rate was getting higher more from the adrenaline pumping through my body due to my fear of crashing rather than anything my legs were doing to power me up the hills.  My hands were getting tired from white knuckling the handlebars.  I knew there was so much beauty around me, yet I was afraid if I took my eyes off of the trail in front of me, I would miss a rut, rock, or stick and crash.  At one point my husband asked me if I was having fun and I just smiled.  Fear and frustration had been the more dominant emotions, and I didn’t want to lie.  As I rode along I thought also about a passage I read earlier this week in a book called “How Champions Think” by Bob Rotella.  In it he says that “Failure is only final when you stop striving.”

So even though I was slow, clumsy and awkward on the mountain bike, even though I was missing running something fierce, I was no failure.  I was out there.  I was only a failure if I stopped trying. This moment is exactly as it should be.

As my husband and I got to our halfway point and turned around, the most amazing thing happened.  I started to relax and bike a little faster.  I was able to take my eyes off the bike for long enough to enjoy the amazing views around me.  I was able to chat with my husband some and enjoy his company.  A luxury that we don’t get very often with three small kids in the house!  I was actually enjoying myself and having fun!  I returned home from that ride happy, refreshed and with a feeling of accomplishment.  And when I got on the bike again a couple of hours later to ride with my kids I realized that my legs had gotten much more of a workout than I thought.

I will get back on that bike and ride again with my husband tomorrow.  And I will probably be scared.  And I will probably get off of the bike and walk around the ruts.  But I will do it.  And I will keep going.


Trying to keep up!